Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Feeling and Thinking

Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, posts a great essay today. He calls the piece "A Grace I'm Not Afraid to Feel: Hope for Christians who want it all." and he examines the relationship and battle between the reformed and charismatic churches and tries to carve out a place for those of us who want to be somewhere in between.

Step into the office, readers. The doctor is in. Today's problem: Getting over a common malady among serious, reformed Christians. Yes, I mean that nagging split personality between believing what is true, and experiencing what is real. Is a high view of doctrine, Word and Sacrament the enemy of genuine piety and experience? Is it the Calvinistic lecture hall versus the Charismatic "really big shoo?"

To begin with, we need a basic question. Which matters more to you? What is real, or what you feel? Those two questions simplify a more complex sounding dilemma: Should we seek objectivity or subjectivity? In matters of Christian faith, the question is just as important: Is the Christian life an objective acceptance of what is real, feeling not withstanding, or is it a subjective experience of what we genuinely, even intensely feel is real for our lives now?

I am troubled by this division in the church and what it means for each of us as persons of faith. As a high church goer of the reformed faith, I have twice now found myself in congregations that have chased the charismatic model (because that is where the recent success is), one with disastrous results and the other with the jury still out.

Michael discusses the influences on his life that have helped him find a synthesis of the two viewpoints. Finding such a synthesis has been the great struggle of my walk with Jesus as well. Intellectual by character and seminary trained, most of my adult life has been devoted to experiencing the very real presence of God without falling off a cliff into some sort of self-indulgent babbling trance.

I think; however, this division has implications for the church that are of equal importance as the implications for our personal lives. The traditional, mainstream, reformed churches are withering on the vine. Most of the charismatic churches I know end up embroiled in enormous scandals, generally involving illicit sex or embezzlement, at some point in their life cycle. Does either really advance the Kingdom?

I would like to challenge the church to try and find the synthesis that Michael describes. It has to be something more than just adopting low-church worship styles, or high-church governing systems. No, this needs to be a genuine synthesis, finding God in our hearts and institutions.


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